My Christmas Memories

Today is the day after Christmas: Thursday, December 26. For us parents, today is still a hectic day; a day of trying clothes, running to get batteries, a lot of boxes lying around and kids running around and refusing to do anything else but play. Today is a great day to be a kid.

For us grownups, today is the day we reminisce about life and those Christmases ago, when we were kids running around the house, or in the neighborhood while our parents smiled at every little thing we did, or screamed at us because we refused to take a shower (we needed the time to play). Today we understand our parents even more, we know why they looked so tired yesterday, and continue being tired today. Helping Santa means the day will be long and the night will be not long enough.

wpid-IMG_21911577428628.jpegAs you all know, I have a big brother and a baby sister who is now 30 years old. When we were growing up we received all kind of presents: balls, bikes, skateboards, roller skates, video games, action figures, Legos, and so on. My greatest memories are not what we received, but the fun we had. When my sister was big enough to open her presents, she never wanted to do it alone. She walked to my room (I was maybe 10), and whispered:

“Franco, estás despierto? (are you awake)”.

“I am now, Frances”.

“Vamos a abrir los regalos (let’s open the presents)”

And I was up in no time. We walked really quiet making sure we did not wake my parents up, something that I now understand was dumb because the door to my room made a lot of noise and so did my sister’s. After we opened the first present we looked at them amazed that we got what we wanted or something different, but still awesome. If you ask me right now about what I got those days my sister woke me up, I would say I don’t remember, really. I remember the fun on doing that.

This is not the one I had, but I needed a picture.
This is not the one I had, but I needed a picture.

I always shared a room with my brother so that meant we usually woke up around the same time on Christmas day (I was up first, but I considered my job to wake him up). One year, I think I was seven or eight years old, I wanted an electric guitar; it had no strings, just buttons with different melodies. I woke up, woke my brother by calling him. We checked under our beds and THERE IT WAS… the guitar. I was still dark outside, but that did not stop us. I was able to turn it on (all the way up) and just pressed one button. Can you imagine someone playing a guitar at four in the morning when everything is quiet? The noise was incredible. We were scared and we knew my parents along with the whole neighborhood, were awake. The same way I turned it on, I turned it off. I pushed the guitar under the bed and my brother and I pretended to be sleeping just when my father opened our door. That is still a funny story in my house to this day.

Spider-Man and me!
Spider-Man and me!

We grew up, and 11 years ago my brother became a father, and so did I four years later. Now it was our turn to help Santa during this season. Different times, different types of presents, and new ways to make it unforgettable. I remember when my oldest son opened one present around five years ago. It was a Spiderman suit, with muscles and all. His face, the joy I saw on him and his happiness made my day. He wore that suit all day long, and the day after that and for some more months. He grew out of it, and to this day he still asks me why did I give it away, he says I could have come up with a way to fix it so he can still use it.

Christmas was a great time for me and I know now that my parents had a lot to do with it. I try to make the same for my kids, so does my brother and my sister. What does this post has to do with being Boricua? Nothing. Today I just want to ask you to make this Christmas season a special one. Make it special for you, your family and the kids. They will never forget the happy times, and they will pass it on to their children. Until next time, cójanlo suave!

Blog to a Friend… AGAIN!

Remember my friend who wrote a love post in Spanish a couple of weeks ago? Well, here he is again, refusing to open a page here at WordPress. But he is a good writer and he brings good traffic to my blog, so here is his new post. Hope you like it.

Cada mañana me levanto pensando en las sorpresas que tendrás para mí. Pienso en mis hijos y cómo tus decisiones afectarán sus vidas, sus logros y como enfrentarán los fracasos que les pongas en el camino. Pienso en lo que hasta hoy me has dado, en lo que me falta por lograr y en lo que, a pesar de mi sacrificio y esfuerzo, me has quitado. Pienso en esas movidas raras que haces a diario tratando de lograr en mí un jaque mate, mientras me las ingenio para hacerte quedar mal.

Le echo un vistazo al pasado y veo esos momentos difíciles de mi vida. Veo las lágrimas que derramé por tu culpa y las que hice que los demás derramaran. Veo las vidas que me afectaron y las que afecté. Veo cientos de cosas que pasaron y hasta el auto que me robaron, sólo porque me quedé con las cartas más malas en el juego de barajas.

Pero mirando en el mismo camino, veo las alegrías que me regalaste. Siento los abrazos de gente que me amó y que aun me ama. Siento los besos de cariño, los besos de amor. Veo a mis viejos luchando por mí y a mis hermanos jugando conmigo. Veo a mis hijos nacer y cada paso que han dado por el camino que les pones delante. Veo sus caritas adornadas por sus sonrisas y de la mano a la mujer que amo.

Road_to_lifeCada mañana me levanto pensando en las sorpresas que tendrás para mí, Vida. No sé qué decidas poner en mi camino, Vida. Pero agradezco lo que has dejado en mi camino, lo bueno y lo malo. Y te puedo asegurar Vida, que estoy listo para lo que tienes en agenda para mí; las tristezas que llegarán a marcarme, que me golpearán como para dejarme tirado y sin aliento. Pero no creas que ganarás, que haré lo que digas Vida. Las herramientas que me dejaste en el camino y las que recojo a diario con cada paso que doy y cada persona que conozco serán suficientes para luchar sin dejarme vencer. Quizás no gane, Vida, pero sé que tampoco lo harás tú. Y eso para mí es suficiente para seguir por tu camino con una sonrisa.

If you have any comment, please write it here. Or if you, as my friend here, want to write something about anything, there is always a spot in my blog (because I am running out of ideas). Until next time, cójanlo suave!

Navidad musical

Christmas time is here, and as you know I would say, Puerto Rico is the best place to be during the holidays, or if you are not in the Island, find a Boricua and I guarantee you will have the best season of your life. Today’s blog is a must-read. And if you click on the links in red, you will also listen to great Christmas music from Borinquen. Many of these songs you will hear during our Christmas season that extends until early February (yes, I wrote February!).

Christmas for Boricuas begins in November and depending on how broke and sad we are, we start earlier. This year, 2013 (because I don’t know when you are reading this post) we started early. We celebrate Thanksgiving, then Christmas, New Years, Three Kings and Octavitas, which is eight days after January 6 (Three Kings Day). If you make the math, everything should be done around January 15, but we like having longer parties; no need to rush the end of a good time. We have the longest Christmas Season in the World (just take my word for it).

And every party is better with the proper music. From décimas to Salsa and Merengue, old and new, we have them all. Here is a list of songs and a little bit of explanation to all of them.

  • How about a wing?
    How about a wing?

    Dame la mano paloma (Give me your hand pigeon) – If you read the title it makes no sense since pigeons have no hands, but that’s not the point. The song goes: Dame la mano paloma, para subir a tu nido, que me han dicho que estás sola y a acompañarte he venido. After that part of the song, people can add their own rhymes. For example: El día que me dijiste, que ya tú no me querías (repeat twice), hasta la perra de casa me miraba y se reía (The day you told me you did not love me anymore, even the dog looked at me and laughed). Then you go back to the chorus and so on. You will hear this in EVERY Christmas party where Boricuas are gathered.

  • La bomba. The song goes: La bomba ay que rica es. Le sube el ritmo por los pies. Mulato saca tu trigueña, pa’ que bailes bomba, bomba puertorriqueña. ¡BOMBA! (La Bomba is really good, the rhythm goes up your feet. Mulato, get your lady, so you can dance the Bomba, Puerto Rican Bomba). Then someone says a Bomba like: Una vieja y un viejito se fueron a coger gandules, y estuvieron en la brega sábado, domingo y lunes. ¡BOMBA! (An old guy and an old lady left to get green peas and they stayed on it Saturday, Sunday and Monday). Then the chorus goes again, and so on.
  • Chuito_el_de_Bayamon_-_El_buen_Borincano_-_1976Jíbaro music. In this category we have people like Chuíto el de Bayamón and Andrés Jiménez. The last one is my father’s favorite. The style of music is unique; just a guitar, a cuatro some maracas and a lot of music. The lyrics go from the simple life in the country side to other things in life and Christmas. And the Le lo Lai is always there too. Listen to this song from Andrés Jiménez and you will understand what I’m talking about. 
  • Salsa music. Salsa is one of our most beloved music. Some say it started in Cuba, some others say it was in New York, but everyone agrees a Boricua was behind it. For decades we have enjoyed the music and Christmas time brings new songs to the genre. One of my favorite is Héctor Lavoe. I’m not a huge fan of his regular salsa, but from Christmas season he is really good. This link has the full production Asalto Navideño from back when Christopher Columbus arrived to Puerto Rico.
  • Some Christmases ago...
    Some Christmases ago…

    El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico – the best salsa group in my book. For over 50 years (which means 51) they have sang and made many people around the globe dance and enjoy. They have a couple of hits for Chirstmas season. La fiesta de Pilito, No hay cama pa’ tanta gente, and El Arbolito. They even have TV specials and LP productions just for Christmas season (for those of you who don’t know what an LP is, look it up, and learn some history). And every Chirstmas I dance along with my father to their amazing music.thCA02O2O2

  • Danny Rivera and Vicente Caratini. When I was growing up and my mom played this music, we knew Christmas was officially started. That meant a lot of singing, a lot of eating and some tembleque for the whole neighborhood. El cardenalito is one of my favorite because I sang it in one school play in fourth grade and it means fun time in my mother’s house. It turns on the Christmas switch!

There are many more songs to enjoy Christmas with and I know all of you have a special one, or one you remember for one reason or another. Maybe your drunken uncle played the song even during the summer, or your sister tried to sing the lyrics but was never able to. Now, as an adult and a father I try to do the same thing in my house, so the new part of the family and my sons learn to enjoy the time and have fun memories to write about.

Let me know what song is good for you, or share a bomba with me (any bomba is a good bomba). Write it in the comment section so everyone can see it. Next time, I may talk about Christmas presents, then and now. Until then, cójanlo suave!

¡A las millas (Really Fast)!

Welcome back to another edition of my blog (that’s the best intro I could come up with). Finally Christmas season is here, and with it more and more fun stuff to do, which for us Boricuas is a lot. But in this specific post I decided to discuss something else.

Last November 19, a new study surfaced stating that kids today are slower than kids were 30 years ago. I will discuss the real reason on why that is happening. Not the scientific reasons behind it that, even though they are really important, they are not explained in the reality of a Boricua (that would be me).

Trompo
Trompo

I grew up in a neighborhood full of kids. Weekends were awesome when I was growing up and I lived next to a basketball court and a big play ground, huge. After school we were playing outside and on weekends we started riding our bikes early in the morning or maybe played basketball, baseball, tag, hide and seek, trompo, gallito,or anything that would keep me away from my school books. There lies the first reason why kids today are slower; we used to play outside. That is a universal reason because technology 20 years ago was not even close to what it is today. So how does being a Boricua make that any different from another person that is not blessed with being Boricua?

My point of view in that specific topic is unique to us Boricuas, or so I like to think. When I was growing up, on Saturday mornings when the summer sun was hitting my neighborhood, I don’t remember my mom getting some sunscreen for us before we went out to play. I do remember her telling us to be careful and to drop by every now and then to get some water and stay hydrated. Today, kids get sick if they go out and play under the sun and they can even Google all the bad things that sun can do for you.

We used to ride our bikes all around the neighborhood, uphill and then down just for fun. We took a break from riding the bike when we found a ball (volleyball, basketball, baseball) and we switched to that game. Then we took a break to go back to riding the bike.

thCAWKQ762As a kid, playing outside, we were able to hear and see the rain coming. So imagine a bunch of kids playing basketball and all of a sudden one of them just stopped playing, looked to the one side of the court and screamed “RAAAAAAAINNN”. We all dropped everything and started running. If you we usually a slow runner, on that specific moment you were Flash, and so was everyone else. Kids today get the weather information and rather stay indoors playing or watching TV.

thCALKX0EAThe same thing happened when we were playing baseball. There was always one of us who hit a home run but the ball got into the house of the worst person in the neighborhood: that lady who hates kids, and games, and fun (kind of like in The Sandlot movie). When the ball was in the air, and we knew it was going to that house, we all screamed: “NOOOOOOOOO. IT’S IN HER HOUSE, RUUUUUUNNNN!!!!!” and we were gone. Nowadays kids play baseball in baseball parks in their communities far from the fun of batting to someone else’s house, far from the adrenaline rush you get when you were the one batting or when you are the one who has to go to the old lady’s house and kindly ask for the ball back when you think she will hurt you. That type of fun is gone.

Speed is also developed when your mom calls you by your full name when you are playing outside. Usually it was around the third time she called you, but you decided to ignore the first two. Even your friends tell you that your mom is calling you, but you don’t care. Here is the way it was for me:

– “Frankie ven, hora de subir (Frankie, time to get inside).”

– Me: Waved my hand like saying “Gimme a minute”.

Five minutes or less later:

– “Frankie te dije que vinieras hace rato. AVANZA! (I told you to get in here. HURRY UP!)”

– Me: On my way mom. We are almost done.

thCA8VUP3JAnother five minutes or less later:

– JOSÉ FRANCISCOOOOOO!!!!!!!

– Me: Started running like the World was coming to an end. Two seconds later, I was home.

That does not happen anymore. I mean, I call my kid by his full name but it is when he did something wrong in the house so he does not have to run.

Technology has speed things up in terms of learning and developing, but outdoor sports have decreased (totally my opinion). And it is not the kids fault, it’s ours as parents. Sometime we want to give them everything we didn’t have but forget to give them everything we did have.

Don’t forget to comment about your experiences. For example, falling when you rode your bike and had to run home to tell your mother half of the skin from your knee is in the pavement, because we did not wear any safety stuff. You know, stuff like that you want to comment, you are more than welcome. Next time I will talk about the Christmas time for Boricuas, music edition. If you have any ideas I could use, email me at enlopositivo@gmail.com. Until next time, cójanlo suave!